Interview with Donald Thompson, Author of Underestimated
12 Oct 2022
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success?
My path to becoming a CEO was not direct or simple. It took hard work, determination, and grit that was refined by three generations of the Thompson family. My inspiration for Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success focused on the heroic efforts of those that came before me and laying out a path for those who might feel underestimated today or in the future.
This book is for anyone who has experienced that feeling of being underestimated. I hope it will serve as an inspiration and a guide for what you can do to overcome challenges and achieve greatness – regardless of your circumstances.
Tell us about The Diversity Movement. What is it? How did it come to be?
The Diversity Movement (TDM) began as a digital company in 2019. It quickly expanded into a full-service, product-driven firm that has assisted more than 100 clients in operationalizing diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) as a strategy for business growth. Our specialists combine education, coaching, technology, and analytics to support businesses in creating stronger and more equitable workplace cultures. TDM has already helped millions of people on their DEI journeys through its award-winning content, digital learning courses, client success services, and employee product platform.
What is one piece of business advice you think everyone should know?
I think it’s essential for everyone to understand that you are not entitled to success. Success is not given; it is earned. Some of us may have to work harder for that success due to factors beyond our control, but an unfair or disadvantaged circumstance is not an excuse to throw in the towel.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
I’m looking forward to reading Don’t Ask the Blind Guy for Directions, the new memoir by my friend John Samuel, who is the CEO of Ablr. I’m also excited about Growing the Elephant: Increasing Earned Advantage for All by Chris Altizer and Gloria Johnson-Cusack. Both these books shine an important light on the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and across society more broadly.
What part of your book was your favorite to write?
An important aspect of Underestimated was honoring my family, not just my parents, but also my Granny and grandfather Big Daddy, in particular. They created a foundation for me – of love, care, excellence, and competitiveness – so I could go out into this world and win, in spite of the circumstances. I remember my grandfather telling me that I was destined for big things when I was around 8 years old. At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant. But there was this belief, from that young age, that I could win with the cards that I was dealt.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
No quirky writing habit or talismans for me. When I think about writing, I can’t help but look back on all the preparation I have done as a competitive learner. For example, I have been reading Harvard Business Review for more than two decades because I want to always push myself to learn from the best. My love of reading has definitely fueled my writing style and desire to write Underestimated.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
My philosophy is straightforward: don’t let others determine your value!
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
One of the defining lessons that I learned from my father was that there are no limits to what I could accomplish if I were willing to learn and put in the time for practice. When you live out your values and commitments on a daily basis, you are changing far more lives than any lecture ever could. The world may not be designed for you or be a fair playing field, but you are the defining factor in your success.
Donald Thompson is the author of the new book Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success
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